Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry in order for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time.
This week, we highlight Sumit Mehta, founder of Mazakali. Based in San Francisco, Mazakali provides comprehensive services to cannabis entrepreneurs and investors. The Mazakali Green Paper™ is an authoritative and concise report on deep trends in the industry that matter to investors and entrepreneurs alike.
In addition to his role at Mazakali, Sumit is the finance and strategy consultant to The Arcview Group and Managing Partner at Emerald Ventures. Sumit has directed cannabis investments since 2014 and currently serves on the Canopy Boulder investment committee. A frequent speaker at leading investment seminars, Sumit also acts as a mentor to Arcview and Canopy companies. Sumit supports the Marijuana Policy Project and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Sumit earned an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Economics with Honors from the University of Texas. He currently resides in San Francisco where he continues to grow his involvement in the cannabis movement.
In our interview with Sumit, we asked a variety of questions to gain further insight about being a cannabis entrepreneur:
Sumit, Thank you for joining us today. It is an honor highlighting you as this week’s DCN’s Entrepreneur of the Week, could you please share a little bit more about your background prior to joining the cannabis industry?
SM: Prior to joining the world of cannabis, I spent nearly two decades on Wall Street. My time in our financial capital markets spanned roles including institutional sales at UBS, sales, and trading at Susquehanna Financial Group, research at Raymond James Financial and private advisor at Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan. I was also involved in the craft beer industry.
With your expertise and guidance, how do you feel we can all make a positive impact in the cannabis industry?
SM: The cannabis plant has been part of human existence for over 10,000 years and we are all well-served to re-acquaint ourselves with its wisdom. This plant has the unique ability to impact food, fuel, fiber, paper, medicine, environment, social justice, civil rights, cognitive liberty and perhaps human existence as we know it – which makes the word ‘industry’ itself incomplete. The cannabis industry is but part of a broader movement and it behooves all its participants to embrace this view. Listen to the lessons the plant teaches us and run your business with the highest levels of integrity, authenticity, and morality. Support those organizations who fight every day so that the rest of us can be in business. Live your life with passion and purpose for our planet and our people – the positive impact is an inevitable outcome.
Is there anything that surprised you about being a cannabis entrepreneur?
SM: I am surprised every day in the cannabis world. Our industry has a unique combination of people, plant, purpose, profit and passion with a growth outlook that rivals anything we have seen in business history. People are accommodative when resources are plentiful, and high growth rates in our industry allow for collaborative innovation at its highest degree. This is in welcome contrast to environments where minor moves towards equality seem like oppression to the privileged.
Can you please share with our readers about one project or accomplishment that you consider the most significant in your career?
SM: While I am grateful to have experienced a few successes in my career, one of my pivotal memories is my decision to leave a two-decade Wall Street career to fully embrace the cannabis industry. Focusing on drivers of passion and purpose can lend a meaning to life simply unattainable when profit is the lighthouse.
Do you have a role model or someone you look up to?
SM: I learn valuable lessons from people every day. From my father and early teachers to Joseph Campbell, Victor Frankl, Gordon Livingston and Yogananda, my world view is continually massaged at the intersection of Western science and Eastern philosophy.
To fellow entrepreneurs, what advice would you provide on founding and launching a startup?
SM: Believe in our world, your team, your vision and yourself. Focus on your actions and let the outcome chips fall where they may. Prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Remember that hope is not a strategy. Test your tolerance for ambiguity while staying true to your mission and purpose. Go out on a limb, the views are better. Do well by doing good. Make it your purpose of taking care of our planet and our people, and let profit only be a byproduct of that purpose. If you’re not living on the edge, you might be taking up too much space. Don’t run out of money.
For fellow investors, how do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability? Cannabis currently retails at 1,350 times the national average price of spinach. An ounce of cannabis extract costs more than an ounce of gold. This allows companies to thrive with much higher margins that drive innovation to leapfrog non-cannabis industry counterparts. This also means an inevitable price decline towards normalized agricultural margins in markets without supply restrictions. Cannabis sub-sectors trade at varying levels of valuation while also enjoying varying degrees of potential takeout multiples. While these are some of the metrics we use to measure viability, we are also careful to not overvalue that which we can measure most easily. Most answers are already within us; we just need to look deep enough.
What is the best piece of advice you would like to share with our readers?
SM: Continually strive to be your authentic self while reminding yourself to continually discover who you are.
As many of us know we will make a few mistakes through the journey of entrepreneurship, what is one mistake you’ve done that turned into one of the biggest lessons?
SM: Pay careful attention to business partner selection. If intent and incentives aren’t perfectly aligned, the match is ripe for issues past the honeymoon period.
Any current books you are reading that you would like to suggest to our readers?
SM: ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ are two books that have had an outsized influence on society through readers such as Steve Jobs and George Lucas. Both contain a body of knowledge profound enough to soothe our planetary soul. ‘Rational Optimist’, ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ and ‘The China Study’ are others that are memorable.
And our final question, how can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
SM: We will titrate our planet with lessons we learn from this ancient and sacred plant; lessons in compassion, compatibility, credibility, collaboration, and consciousness. The spread of socially acceptable cannabis consumption will undoubtedly exert a kaleidoscope of influence on our decision-making, idea generation and business formation as pubs and coffee shops did in their respective eras. Our collective drive towards homeostasis itself will create immense positive social impact. We have an extremely bright future as we exit this dark period of propaganda and prohibition.
To learn more about Mazakali, you can go to www.mazakali.com.
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